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B'More Green
An environmental blog for everyday living
Maryland rockfish poacher gets 18-month prison sentence

A Tilghman Island waterman was sentenced Friday to 18 months in prison followed by six months of home detention for poaching tens of thousands of pounds of rockfish from the Chesapeake Bay.

U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett said Michael D. Hayden, Jr., 43, received the longest sentence of four men convicted in the poaching scheme because he had obstructed justice by threatening a witness.

"The scale of this conspiracy was massive," said federal prosecutor Todd Gleason. "It coincides with a steady decline of striped bass. We are heading back to the levels near the moratorium, thanks in no small part to Mr. Hayden."

Hayden will be subject to three years of supervised release and will have to pay $40,000 in fines. He and co-defendant William J. "Billy" Lednum, 42, also of Tilghman Island, are jointly responsible for nearly $500,000 in restitution as well.

Hayden and Lednum admitted to running an operation between 2007 and 2011 that involved taking rockfish, also called striped bass,...

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Frosh wades into fracking fight

Attorney General Brian E. Frosh entered the fight over hydraulic fracturing in Maryland on Wednesday, urging state lawmakers to pass a bill with liability standards so tough that critics and some supporters consider it a de facto fracking ban.

In the absence of "gold standard" regulations to monitor the industry, Frosh said, Maryland would need to find another way to protect residents and the environment.

"If we're not going to have those regulations adopted, then it makes sense to have strict liability," Frosh said. "I'm not sure it's a de facto ban. But it poses to drillers: if this really is safe, go ahead and do it."

Legislation moving through a Senate committee would set some of the toughest legal standards in the country for drillers. If anyone near a gas well became sick, the drillers would carry the burden of proving their innocence.

The legislation also would require that drillers carry at least $5 million in insurance coverage. It would provide very limited protection for...

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More evidence found of toxic contamination in waters off Sparrows Point

New testing has found more evidence of serious contamination in a creek bordering the former steel mill at Sparrows Point, prompting environmentalists to question the adequacy of the cleanup plan for the Baltimore County peninsula now targeted for redevelopment. 

According to an analysis commissioned by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, sediments sampled from the bottom of Bear Creek off Dundalk are so riddled with toxic pollutants that most killed aquatic creatures normally found elsewhere in Baltimore's harbor.

The Annapolis-based environmental group says the tests conducted by a University of Maryland scientist indicate that contamination from the now-demolished steel-making complex extends farther offshore than state and federal environmental agencies have been willing so far to look.

"They appear to be kind of piece-mealing this and keeping pretty close to shore," said Beth McGee, senior scientist with the foundation. The UM findings ought to prompt a more comprehensive and...

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Miller moves to drop 'rain tax' mandate, make counties show instead how they're curbing pollution

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller waded into the "rain tax" controversy Wednesday, offering his own bill to effectively repeal the mandate that Baltimore city and Maryland's nine largest counties levy storm-water management fees on their property owners.

Instead, Miller would require those local governments to submit a report on how they plan to pay for storm-water pollution projects required of them by the federal government to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

Runoff from city and suburban streets, buildings and parking lots is a significant and growing source of pollution fouling the bay, federal officials have said. But the fees have generated vocal criticism.

"This has been a very contentious issue that I believe this proposal will help resolve," Miller said in a statement announcing introduction of his bill. With 30 cosponsors, including 11 Republicans, it appears sure to pass the 47-member Senate. Its future is less certain in the House, where Speaker Michael E. Busch has...

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Lawmakers scrutinize Hogan farm pollution rules, mull taking own action

Gov. Larry Hogan's proposal to curb poultry manure runoff from Eastern Shore farms sparked spirited debate Tuesday, as environmentalists, administration officials and farmers sparred over whether the rules would finally resolve the longstanding problem, or let pollution keep washing into the Chesapeake Bay for years to come.

Environmentalists urged a Senate panel to act on a bill that would codify farm phosphorus regulations drawn up under Gov. Martin O'Malley. They said they're concerned there's too much room for delay in rules the Hogan administration released only a few hours before the hearing.

But administration officials and farm group leaders opposed legislative action, arguing that they're committed to following through, but want to be able to give farmers extra time if needed to make a sweeping change in how the Shore's leading industry operates.

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, sponsor of the bill, said he was glad his legislation had prompted the Hogan administration to act after...

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Tilghman Island waterman may lose license for rockfish poaching

State officials are considering whether to revoke the license of a Tilghman Island waterman who entered federal prison this month for his role in a rockfish poaching scheme.

Sarah Widman, director of policy and planning for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' fisheries service, said the state recently received paperwork from the federal government relating to the prosecution of William J. "Billy" Lednum.

Officials will decide in the coming weeks whether to revoke the state license that allows Lednum to fish for rockfish, also known as striped bass.

That is the typical procedure for major fishing violations, Widman said.

In December, a federal judge in Baltimore sentenced Lednum to one year and one day in prison for his role in a poaching operation that lasted from at least 2007 to 2011 and involved nearly $500,000 worth of rockfish.

The state and federal investigation into the operation began in February 2011, when Natural Resources Police discovered several illegally set...

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